Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories was first seen in London at The Lyric Hammersmith almost a decade ago, since then it has been staged across the globe and even been made in to a film. Following that first outing it successfully transferred to The West End, and history repeats itself in 2019, as following a revival at its original home earlier this year, the production, directed by the writers and Sean Holmes, now transfers to the Ambassador’s Theatre just in time for the spookiest season of all.
Ghost Stories comes with a warning to those of a nervous disposition to think carefully before attending. I count myself in that group, so took my seat in the Ambassador’s with some trepidation. The title describes exactly what we are in for, three of them to be precise, surrounded by a lecture delivered by parapsychologist Phillip Goodman (Simon Lipkin). The lecture blends in to each terrifying tale well, building the audience in to a state of heightened suspense, just in time for a blood-curdling strike at the most opportune moment.
Ghost Stories has endured in popularity partly due to loyal patrons, and critics, keeping the secrets. Anyone familiar with Jeremy Dyson’s work with the League of Gentleman will know that there’s something else going on behind these seemingly distinct stories, and the finale is as jaw droppingly horrifying as it is genius.
Garry Cooper, Preston Nyman and Richard Sutton each bring their own spin to their individual tales, and Jon Bausor’s design means that the stage is forever morphing in to something even more horrifying than before. The accordion like depository in Cooper’s scene, gives way to a broken-down car in Nyman’s, before Sutton steps in to a ghoulish nursery.
It’s the suspense that this production utilises so well, we all know what we’re there for, and the hooded figure leaning menacingly over the canopy of the theatre leaves us in no doubt that this won’t be your average trip to the theatre. That sense of expectation seems to creep its way through the audience in a sense of the shared experience, each scare is followed by giggles from around the auditorium, as each audience member marvels at how far they’ve jumped or screamed, or perhaps funnier, how the person sitting next to them reacted.
The nightmarish special effects are just part of the equation, the creative team have mastered the art of creating a chilling ambiance. The eerie, and sometimes deafening sound design from Nick Manning seems to emanate from all parts of the theatre, while James Farncombe’s dramatic lighting has precisely the desired effect.
So, is Ghost Stories as scary as the warnings suggest, well in a word yes. But it’s also incredibly well constructed and fantastically staged. If you enjoy being scared then fill your boots, if you don’t, then do as I did, and take a friend that’s afraid of their own shadow, it will make for one priceless evening.
Main Image Credit: Chris Payne